Richmond casino plan goes to polls
Early voting is underway across Virginia, and in Richmond, residents will also decide by Nov. 2 whether Silver Spring, Maryland-based Urban One Inc. can establish its proposed $565 million ONE Casino + Resort in the city.
Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins has high hopes for what could be the nation’s only majority Black-owned casino and resort.
“South Richmond has been waiting for an economic development opportunity of their own,” he says. “Other sections of Richmond have seen tremendous growth in recent years, but that growth has not, to date, included South Richmond. ONE is going to be a catalyst for new jobs, critically needed tax revenue, and additional economic development and opportunities in this part of the city.”
Leonard Sledge, director of the city’s economic development department, notes that the city expects the casino to generate 1,300 direct jobs. It will also make a $25.5 million upfront payment to the city government if the casino referendum passes next month.
“We believe it’s a great opportunity for the city,” Sledge says. Beyond casino jobs, the Maryland media conglomerate plans to build a 15,000-square-foot soundstage adjacent to the resort for film, TV and radio production, with a promise to spend $50 million on productions there. The casino also plans to partner with Virginia Union University and Reynolds Community College for workforce training, Liggins adds.
Brian Anderson, president and CEO of ChamberRVA, says he supports the resort because it would produce well-paid jobs and include space for 15 local bars and restaurants. “This is going to be not chain-driven, not corporate-driven, but local restaurant-driven,” he says. “My gut says that it has a good chance to pass.”
No public polling has been done to gauge support for the casino, although the process has seen some opposition, particularly at earlier stages.
Quinton Robbins, political director for the progressive Richmond For All organization, which opposes the project, lives about two miles from the site and has canvassed area voters. There is “not necessarily a plurality of support,” and there’s also “a lot of anxiety” among voters over the project, he says. “This is another sort of bad deal the city has whipped up.”
Robbins notes that Liggins was quoted in The Washington Post in August as saying that nobody — Liggins included — wants a casino in their backyard. “I think people only want this deal if it’s going to benefit working Richmonders,” Robbins says.
This article has been corrected.